Michael and Max used to be friends; neighborhood kids who grew up together in Detroit. But now, in their sophomore year, Max’s single father terrorizes him to the point that Max takes out his fury on kids at school, often bragging about his father’s handgun. His easiest target is Michael, who has recently been exhibiting involuntary ticks, blinks, and barks (“BLINK / IMAGINARY BOY"), for which Max has nicknamed him, “Dog Boy” and threatened to “end him.” Michael’s one friend, Curt, is a witty kid who makes Michael laugh, but changes into a complicit bystander whenever Max shows up with his posse to torment Michael ("POWERLESS").
Max cleverly provokes Michael’s barking classroom outbursts, which oblige his teachers to send Michael to the office, where Mrs. Johnson, the school secretary, tries to soothe Michael’s hurt and anger (“IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU”), and assures Michael the school is aware of Max’s bullying. Meanwhile, with Michael out of the classroom, Max successfully steals Michael’s passwords and changes his Facebook profile, instantly assassinating Michael’s character. In one fell swoop, Michael learns that the Principal’s disciplinary committee has voted to expel him; the pediatrician has diagnosed him with Tourette Syndrome; and students throughout school have spread his altered Facebook page like wildfire. Overwhelmed with thoughts of suicide, Michael runs away to an old favorite alley hiding spot he took comfort in as a kid.
Max comes home after school to learn that the school office has called to schedule a disciplinary meeting about Max’s bullying, igniting a violent rage in Max’s father. Max survives a beating, wrestles away the gun, and narrowly escapes, taking refuge in the same alley hiding place where he comes face-to-face with Michael, who asks if he can “borrow” Max’s gun. Max realizes what he’s done and starts to apologize. Max’s father bursts into the alley, Michael comes out as a decoy, and sends him looking elsewhere. The boys talk and even laugh together, finally parting as renewed friends with plans to start fresh at lunch tomorrow. They go their separate ways, but Max returns home to a sad and tragic end.
EPILOGUE AND FINALE in Present day: A grown up Michael and his young son, “Max,” sing in The Motor City Angels Community Choir (“LEAD WITH LOVE”).